Monday, October 31, 2011

Goals and Questions: Journal Notes #63

Notes from my January 2009 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* In the first Wujifa class of the new year, we did a goal achieving exercise. In this class we focused on noticing various feelings and feeling states. This was different from other "goal exercises" I remember doing in college and at work where the focus was on data: what's your goal and what are the steps you have to take to get there.

The method used in Wujifa class was to draw a picture of my goal on a piece of paper, then tape the picture to the wall, step several paces away from it, then turn and face my goal. How do you feel seeing your goal so far away? Now take a step closer. How do you feel now? Repeat these steps getting closer... closer... closer... then when within reach, grab it! Now how do you feel having reached your goal?

Then I did a variation of this exercise. I taped the picture to the wall and then stepped several paces away from it, then turned and faced my goal. This time however, classmates imposed obstacles on my "journey" to my goal. Notice your feeling when an obstacle comes between you and goal. Play with various methods to remove or overcome your obstacle, for example, ask for assistance (How do you feel when asking for help?), or use other methods available to you (How do you feel using new methods you may have never used before?).

What I learned from this exercise is that I habitually approach goals with the same feeling or from the same feeling state. When I watched my school brothers do this, I experienced and learned that others approach goal achieving and obstacle-overcoming with different feeling and from different feeling states which gave me some insights, for example, how locked-in I am to one way of doing things and how little I'm aware of or able to express my feeling. Also, when I encounter an obstacle, if the first couple attempts to surmount it don't work, I then quit my attempt to achieve it using a rationalization: "It doesn't matter.", "Who cares.", or "I guess I'm not meant to get it after all."
(Now, almost three years later, I had completely forgotten this exercise and what I wrote about that class. But have those lessons stuck with me? Sorry to say, but I don't think so. I'm running into a long-standing obstacle again, however, this time, my approach is different. I'm taking more "ownership" of the obstacle-overcoming method I'm working with this time which in itself is also difficult for me because the underlying feeling has become more tangible: fear! And I'm noticing how the tension between the wanting the goal and the fear shows up in my body as... Guess what? Muscular holding and tension: armoring!

The goal of letting go can involve so much more than simply noticing a tense muscle and relaxing it. Sometimes, letting go involves not holding back on saying or doing certain things. Initially, I didn't even know why I was holding but the more I work there, the more I learn how deeply ingrained family, society, cultural lessons created boundaries or patterns. What I discover when playing on the edge of those boundaries is a less obvious and more subtle form of fear.

What I'm noticing is that holding back to satisfy some idea, to not go through a fear is fueled by an underlying intention to control and hold. So I'm thinking now that real SUNG is fueled by a deeper underlying intention of letting go and not an underlying intention of control and holding. "Relax" is more a global state of "mind" than a localized, compartmentalized experience.

If I am like many people, then I think many people may relax to a certain level that is within their "comfort zone". They never realize why they are only relaxing to a certain level; relaxing within the boundaries of their established patterns. They'll relax to the point they encounter the fear and then stop relaxing. To get to the deeper levels of SUNG I think requires more work than many people are willing to get into.

In the Wujifa class above, my "rationalization" was a way for me to avoid addressing and working through a fear that I couldn't even identify as a fear at that time. Of course, this is not a global attitude but rather an attitude isolated to specific areas of living.

Goals. Fears. Control. Holding. Letting go. Relaxing. Opening. Goals.)

* In another class, we explored the source feeling state of questions. (Wujifa classes are based on students' questions.)

Questions may be asked from a conceptual and mechanistic point of view which is largely devoid of the genuine feeling of curiosity. In this case, the question usually arises from a problem viewed as mechanistic in nature, for example when I ask, "I've been playing with getting the combined feelings of dropping, sliding knees forward, and bowing as one movement. How does this look? How can I get more weight in the legs?"

I frame the problem mechanically and even though the "feeling" word is involved, the question is based on and rooted in mechanics and concepts and is asked in a way that is devoid of feeling.

Instructor: Try this. Enter the state of genuine feeling of curiosity, the beginner's mind. Play with being a child encountering the world for the first time: What's that? Why? How come?

Me: OK. I'm curious... What do you mean by feeling more weight in the legs? What's that mean? How do I do that? How do I feel more weight in my legs?

Instructor: Can you feel the difference when you ask the question with a more genuine feeling of curiosity?

Me: Yes, I feel an internal shift between these two states, the latter feeling more alive and present than the former.

(I'm noticing now that I'm alternating between being holding/controlling and being more open/authentic. So maybe this is a phase for me. I notice that when I pull back into my controlling/holding patterns, that I'm comparatively dull and mechanical and I can't notice these subtleties in others. However, when I'm in my more open/authentic un-pattern, then it's much easier for me to notice these subtleties in others.

As I've said in other posts, I can only notice in others to the level at which I've developed in myself, which for me means, letting go even more...)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Mind-full-ness and Zoning Out: Journal Notes #62
Next article in this series: Zhan Zhuang Medicine: Journal Notes #64


  1. Mike - The Wujifa saying "You are where you are and that's where you start" seems to really apply here. People who've stepped in dog poo may block out the smell. When pointed out they need to clean or even throw out the soiled shoes it the smell and stain has soaked in too deeply. To keep these soiled shoes out of some kind of fear or hope the the poo stains will magically go away is what so many people do. You are where you are and that's where you start. If you're standing in dog poo the get yourself out of the poo as quickly and safely as you can (poo can be slippery). Second clean the poo off your shoes as quickly as you can. If poo stains are ingrained get new shoes. You are where you are. Most people never look at where they are and the poo they are standing in.

  2. I have a friend. He has to constantly control his medication such that he adjusts his dosage daily and often takes himself to the edge of crazziness before noticing we notice he is crazy and inform him so.

    I have another friend who lives in a forest and cannot see the trees.

    Perhaps you could focus.

    Perhaps you could focus on moving something you feel and then feel how it relates to all of the other parts.

    If that is overwhelming try and see how it feels in relation to just one other part.

    A really complicated study follows: (remind you of anyone)

    A good one to focus on is how the penis thrust movement occurs during the sitting down action. The abdomin rises and the lower back drops. Do this while not contracting the anus. After you connect to this and can feel the flow with out any tension in the anus or cutting off of blood to the genital area move to the upper leg. There is a symetrical front and back motion along the axis of the leg. The front can be up and the back can be down, however the feeling of the up may be a lengthening feeling in both directions with the net effect being up. Now actually there is a sprial motion from the outside of the hip to the inside of the knee area that causes the feeling along with some large muscle group acion in the quads.

    Once you have this feeling you can move from the knee to the ankle this spiral is from the inside of the knee to the outside of the ankle around th front. This then spirals throuth the ankle with the net effect of raising the arch. Further study will gain you feeling in the toes, pad and other foot areas.

    Did that help you or did it make you crazy????

    Best to try and feel where you are and then slowly connect to the other parts. If you don't know where you are then you are nowhere.